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# AN INTRODUCTION TO

Static Pressure
Understanding and properly measuring static pressure can provide clues as to why
a system is not performing efficiently to quickly get HVAC units healthy again.
B Y D AV I D R I C H A R D S O N
Images courtesy of the author.

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easuring static pressure is a
evaluate an existing duct system and its installation conditions.
Across the country this very day,
equipment is unknowingly installed
on drastically undersized duct systems that hinder them from operating to their full potential.
By properly utilizing static pressure testing, you can uncover problems associated with this type of
installation that are invisible to
your competition. You will find that
once you begin to measure static
pressure that there are more messed
up duct systems than you will ever
be able to correct. Consider how
include the duct system.

Static pressure 101

If you see duct pressures that exceed 0.10 in. wc, rest assured there is a restriction
somewhere on that side of the duct system.

Static pressure is the amount of pressure a fan has to push
and pull against to move air through a duct system. Static
pressure is exerted equally on all sides of a duct system. This
pressure is similar to that found by blowing up a balloon.
When measuring static pressure, the unit of measurement
used is inches of water column, which is often shown as an
abbreviation such as “in. wc,” “in. wg” or “in. H2O.”
One key to interpreting and diagnosing static pressure
is to first understand how pressures change throughout an
HVAC system. Pressure on the supply side of the duct system
will be highest at the discharge of the fan in the equipment.
The lowest pressure on the supply side of the duct system is
usually found past the supply register as air enters a room.
Pressure on the return side of the duct system will be highest
at the inlet of the fan in the equipment. The lowest pressure
on the return side of the duct system is usually found right
before air enters the return grille.
12 RSES Journal NOVEMBER 2014

An instrument used to measure pressure is called a “manometer.” The most common manometer is a Magnehelic
gauge. The 0–1-in. wc Magnehelic gauge works perfect for
most testing, including residential and most light-commercial testing. The top port of this gauge measures positive
pressure while the bottom port measures negative pressure.
Another style of manometer is a digital manometer. For static pressure testing, make sure the manometer
is equipped with two pressure ports. Digital manometers
should have a range from 0 in. to 5 in. and display pressure
to 1/100 of an inch.
To complete the measurement of static pressure, you
will need to have static pressure tips and tubing for making
connections to the manometer. One manufacturer’s static
pressure tip is used to cancel out any effects of total pressure and velocity pressure on the manometer resulting in
inaccurate pressure readings. You will also need 3/16- in.
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